Books · Music · Theatre

The bitter end – Edinburgh Festivals Days Twenty-six and Twenty-seven.

What's the norm? Edinburgh Fringe - 70 years of defying

Sunday 27th August and the Bank Holiday Monday 28th August saw the end of this year’s Festivals.

First show on Sunday was Girls from Talawa Theatre Company, a powerful piece about three young women captured by, I guess, Boko Haram after an attack on their village; it’s never made explicit.  The play explores the girls’ different ways of dealing with the atrocities meted out to them.  It ends well for nobody, but neither does Hamlet.  Girls was an excellent play magnificently performed.  I’d like to think  the title is a riff comparing the tribulations of Lena Dunham’s titular girls with some real suffering – the chronology would be about right.

Dear Home Office 2 – Still Pending by Phosphorus Theatre was a sequel to their Dear Home Office, which had lightly fictionalised the stories of nearly all members of the company in their attempts to gain British citizenship and subsequently, security.  I believe that Phosphorus is the project of the two British nationals who set up the company to highlight the plight of the other amateur actors on the stage, who had come to the UK from a variety of countries on several continents.  The show was strangely moving in its presentation of the players’ realities as theatre.

Jess and Joe Forever by Zoe Cooper at The Traverse in the early evening had an advertising poster around the town with a puff-line “You’ll want to punch the air,” so I was afraid this would be the sort of thin that would make me want to punch the writer, director or actors…but no, it was a grand wee play about a couple of kids growing up and growing in love.

Nicola Coughlan (Jess) and Rhys Isaac Jones (Joe)

(Nicola Coughlan and Rhys-Isaac Jones in Jess and Joe Forever.)

It’s the first play I’ve seen that had dealt with gender fluidity, or at least gender fluidity in our times.  To be hipper-than-thou, the Trav had taped hand-written signs over the gender signs on all of their capacious toilets to indicate that any gender could use any toilet.  Of course there was a woman in the men’s – you don’t have to run after the bus once you’re on it, I suppose.


Cosey Fanni Tutti Ian Rankin


We finished Sunday by going to the Book Festival to see Cosey Fanni Tutti talk about her book Art Sex Music, which was fine, but would have been better if it was a better edited book and if the Book Festival interlocutor had been a bit more incisive.  Having read the book, you certainly can’t say her life has been uneventful.

The Fringe ends on the August Bank Holiday and this was the first time for many years I had been in Edinburgh on that day.  I have always been keen to avoid the inherent sadness of the city on that day, when people are doing maybe their final show, or are more likely loading vans with bits of scenery and suitcases before they take their leave with dreams of…something; maybe coming back next year, or maybe never setting foot on a stage again.

Monday 28th August, the end.

Joanne Hartstone gave us The Girl Who Jumped Off the Hollywood Sign based on the true story of a girl who did just that when her movie-acting career wasn’t all she had expected.  Hartstone has toured a lot with this one-woman-show, which was well presented and acted.  Poor girl got a bit emotional when she was thanking everyone at the end of her final performance, so it’s not just me who feels the end of the Festival strongly.  Got a nice little badge on exit.

Second show on the last Monday was Moonlight After Midnight by Concrete Drops Theatre from New York. The company is a man and woman duo who produce and act all their own work, and very good this was too. I checked their Facebook page after this and the seem to have had a great time in Edinburgh; they warmly wished all the audience goodbye outside the theatre.

Unfortunately, the third and last thing we saw on the last day was fairly poor. The actor seemed to be doing the sort of things actors should do, without being very good.

Never mind. We saw tons of good stuff, occasional great stuff and none of my concerns about the city’s superstructure collapsing happened.

It’s noticeable that the locus of the Fringe is becoming more and more concentrated in the Teviot/Meadows/Southside – we only made a couple of trips to George Street, so it is all easily negotiable as long as you have patience with the crowds, or a good working knowledge of the backstreets and shortcuts that will help you avoid the really densely packed streets.

I was personally impressed that we used no taxis this year…

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